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Research seeks to answer what makes trendy reef estate for abalone

3 April, 2012

Local abalone fisheries threatened by a herpes-like virus in recent years in Western Victoria, will be assisted by a team of researchers from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne in a new project funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

Armed with the first high-resolution pictures of the seafloor and genetic technologies the research team plans to enhance our current understanding of blacklip abalone stocks in the region and help to restore populations in virus-affected areas.

Deakin University marine expert, Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou said the project supported by Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Western Abalone Divers Association, Department of Primary Industries, and the University of Tasmania, aimed to get a better understanding of species habitat requirements, the availability of suitable real estate in the region, and the genetic composition of resident abalone stocks.

Dr Adam Miller from the University of Melbourne said ultimately the project would assist the western abalone fishery in implementing appropriate management methods for sustainable harvesting in the future.

Uniquely it will be among the first projects to use Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDAR) originally collected for storm surge modelling as part of the State Government's Future Coasts Program to provide detailed imagery the seafloor. The project builds on Dr Ierodiaconou's previous work mapping the sea floor as part of the Victorian Marine Habitat Mapping Project, an ambitious undertaking to eventually map Victoria's marine environment in its entirety.

"The sea floor mapping research will help us understand what makes good habitat and how these habitats are arranged along the coast. Coupled with commercial catch information these mapping activities will enable us to identify specific factors driving variations in productivity" Dr Ierodiaconou said.

"When abalone spawn, they spawn into the water column and eventually settle on the reefs. Where young abalone end up is dependent on ocean currents and the availability of appropriate habitat"

Dr Miller said a key part of the project would involve analysing the genetic makeup of abalone from different parts of the region. This will determine population structure of breeding stocks and patterns of juvenile recruitment improving management of individual reefs.

"This analysis will also allow us to assess the impacts of the virus on the health of local abalone stocks," he said.

"By understanding patterns of genetic variation across the fishery we will be able to identify areas of the reef which are harboring vulnerable populations following the virus".

"This information will help managers prioritise intervention activities such as reseeding or moving populations, as well as providing baseline data for monitoring the recovery of the fishery."

News facts
  • Research team plans to improve current understanding of blacklip abalone stocks in the region and help to restore populations in virus-affected areas
  • Researchers will be armed with the first high-resolution pictures of the seafloor and genetic technologies
  • Among the first projects to use Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDAR) originally collected for storm surge modelling as part of the State Government's Future Coasts Program

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/ 0422 005 485
Email sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.au

Hopkins image

A LiDAR image of the coast of Warrnambool revealing the structure of the seafloor.

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

3rd April 2012